HOUSTON – Sitting. Standing. Walking. These simple activities can be a challenge for children with special needs. But now there is a program in Florida using a special device designed to help these kids with basic movements many of us take for granted.
Eva is one such child.
Her mother, Adrianna Enlow's, second pregnancy was uneventful until she went into labor. "The minute she was born I heard her cry. They cut the umbilical cord and she collapsed," said Enlow.
Newborn Eva's heart suddenly stopped. Doctors were able to save her life, but the resulting brain damage left Eva with cerebral palsy.
"We get a diagnosis, we take it. It's hard, but after that it's 'what are we going to?'" said Enlow.
She brought Eva to Therapy for Kids to try something new, a device called the pediasuit.
"Life out there is very difficult for families with special needs. When they walk in here, it has to be easy and perfect," said Dr. Leonardo De Oliviera. He's an occupational therapist. He came up with the idea for the pediasuit while watching cosmonauts practice for life in space.
"I thought this suit simulates gravity, teaches them which way is up and helps them move, so lets make it so we can use it in pediatric therapy," said De Oliviera.
Once the youngster is secured in the suit, therapists work with the child in a special "cage" of bungee cords, helping them build the motor skills to be able to sit up, stand and even walk.
De Oliviera explains how it works. "The idea is once you take it off they have the muscle memory. Once they learn how to do it they go for it."
"It makes them aware of muscles, or part of their body they didn't know before. She has more control of her own body when she's sitting and when she's standing," said Enlow.
And that's allowing Eva to be more independent.
"What I learned from this whole process is don't ever tell your child they can't do something. Tell them 'lets try, lets get it done' and that's what we're doing," said Enlow.
The Pediasuit Protocol program is intense. Kids undergo individualized rehabilitation plans of 80 hours for up to four weeks.